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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 November 2006, 13:35 GMT
China sect leader 'put to death'
China has executed the leader of a prominent Christian sect after he was convicted of murdering members of a rival group, reports said.

Underground church founder Xu Shuangfu was executed with two other leaders last week, though his family was only told on Tuesday, his lawyer said.

Xu and several followers were sentenced to death in July, accused of killing 20 people between 2002 and 2004.

His lawyer, Li Heping, said Xu had been tortured into confessing.

The lawyer said Li Maoxing and Wang Jun had also been put to death in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang.

Unconfirmed reports suggest there have been between nine and 12 other executions in connection with the same case.

The convictions relate to the murders of members of the Eastern Lightning cult.

The sect leader's lawyer said the charges against the three were "all sheer nonsense".

"The court does not have any evidence to support them," Mr Li said.

"During interrogation, they were tortured into confession."

Court officials were not immediately available for comment.

China allows people to worship in official churches, but many millions of others follow unofficial organisations. These underground spiritual movements often complain they are subject to sometimes violent persecution.

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24 Dec 03 |  Asia-Pacific
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10 Oct 02 |  Asia-Pacific
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08 Oct 02 |  Asia-Pacific

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